Senate President, Senator David Mark
By Onwuka Nzeshi
The National Assembly Tuesday unfolded plans by Nigeria to ensure the protection of the rights and safety of the people of the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula, which was ceded to Cameroun following the 2002 judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
It is planning to reach out to the Camerounian parliament so that the legislatures of the two countries could jointly find ways of resolving the outstanding issues in the conflict between Nigeria and Cameroun over the peninsula.
Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator David Mark, told reporters, shortly after contributing to a special debate on “Citizenship, Identity, Cultural and Linguistic Identity in a Globalised World” at the 127th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) holding in Quebec, Canada, that the current phase of the Bakassi crisis has some bearing on minority rights.
He said given the fact that the Bakassi people have been made immigrants and minorities in Cameroun, there was a need for both countries to seek an amicable solution to the crisis.
According to him, the Nigerian delegation to the IPU Assembly will discuss with their counterparts from Cameroun on how best the rights and privileges of Nigerians in Cameroun could be fully protected.
The people of Bakassi, it was learnt, have opted to seek self-determination, a right guaranteed under the charter of the United Nations, following the Federal Government’s refusal to seek a review of the ICJ judgment before it became statute barred.
While contributing to the IPU debate, Mark also assured the global community of the preparedness of the National Assembly to revisit some provisions of the 1999 Constitution to guarantee the protection of minority interests and resolve the thorny issue of indigene/settler conflicts in Nigeria.
He said the National Assembly was not only committed to raising the stakes in the management of diversity, but was already taking steps to ensure that every minority interest in Nigeria is fully protected.
“We are working to remove all obstacles that hinder unity and harmonious co-existence. At the moment, efforts are on course at the National Assembly to further amend the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Cardinal among the issues on the agenda is to revisit some constitutional provisions, which seem to contradict one another and the spirit of the constitution on the rights and privileges of Nigerians.
“In particular, the National Assembly is taking another look at the issue of state of origin as against state of residence,” he said.
Section 42 of the constitution states that “a citizen of Nigeria shall not be subjected to disabilities or restriction to which citizens of Nigeria or other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious, political opinions are not made subject or be accorded any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions.”
In addition, Section 147(3) provides that a citizen of Nigeria must be an indigene of a particular state for him/her to aspire to a political office in the country.
Mark said such discriminatory provisions tend to ignite indigene/settler conflicts, adding that the current thinking is to replace state of origin with state of residence in the ongoing alteration of the 1999 Constitution.